By JOSH BOAK Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden wants to control inflation. He wants Congress to protect access to abortions. He wants to address voting rights. And he’s taking on China, promoting the construction of new factories, tackling climate change, forgiving student debt, forgiving federal marijuana convictions, reducing the deficit, working to lower prescription drug prices, and funneling aid to Ukraine. .
Biden is trying to be everything to everyone. But that makes it hard for him to say he’s focused on one issue above all others as he tries to counter Republican momentum heading into the Nov. 8 election.
“There is not one thing,” Biden said Wednesday when asked about his top priority. “There are multiple, multiple, multiple problems, and they are all important. … We should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. You know, that old expression.
Biden’s exhaustive to-do list is an acknowledgment that the coalition of Democratic voters he needs to turn out on Election Day is diverse in terms of race, age, education and geography. This group of voters has an expansive list of overlapping and conflicting interests on crime, civil rights, climate change, the federal budget, and other issues.
Republican candidates trying to break Democratic control of Congress have a much more even voter base, which allows them to target narrower messages about the economy, crime and immigration to white voters, older voters, those who don’t have a college degree and those who identify as Christian.
In the 2020 election, AP VoteCast suggests, Biden drew disproportionate support from women, black voters, voters under 45, college graduates, and city and suburban dwellers. That gave Biden a broader support base than Republican Donald Trump and is also a potential long-term advantage for Democrats as the country becomes more diverse and better educated.
But in midterm elections that typically favor the party not in the White House, Biden is required to appeal to all those constituencies.
“Coherence and cohesion have always been a challenge for the modern Democratic Party that is built on a coalition that crosses racial, ethnic, religious and class lines,” said Daniel Cox, senior fellow for polling and public opinion at the conservative AmericanEnterprise Institute. “It takes considerable political talent to maintain a coalition with diverse interests and backgrounds. Barack Obama managed to do it, but subsequent Democrats have struggled.”
Biden devoted his public remarks last Tuesday to abortion, Wednesday to gas prices, Thursday to infrastructure and Friday to deficit reduction, student debt forgiveness and historically black colleges and universities. In most of his public speeches, Biden says he understands the pain caused by rising consumer prices 8.2% from a year ago and that he is working to cut costs.
Cox said there are signs Biden’s 2020 coalition is fracturing, with younger liberal voters not as enamored with him, and he doesn’t appear to have done much to shore up Hispanic support.
But compared to 2016, when Trump won the presidency, Biden made relative progress with a prominent bloc that generally favors Republicans: white voters without a college degree, getting 33% of their votes compared to 28%. who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. according to a 2021 analysis by the Pew Research Center.
Keeping those voters in the Democratic coalition could be essential to maintaining control of the Senate.
Biden has repeatedly traveled to Pennsylvania, campaigning Thursday for Senate candidate John Fetterman with the goal of winning a seat in the state. Fetterman, in his sweatpants and shorts, exudes a blue-collar image, in contrast to Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, who rose to fame as a television talk show host.
“Democrats need to hold onto as much of that bloc as possible, especially in whiter key states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin,” said William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The test for Democrats is how to address broader concerns about the economy and inflation that affect everyone, while highlighting specific issues that could energize various segments of their base.
That may involve tradeoffs.
Since Republicans have made crime a national problem, Biden’s message that he supports the police could help those white voters. But it could also alienate younger voters in Georgia and Florida Senate races who believe police are part of the civil rights problem, said Alvin Tillery Jr., a Northwestern University professor and director of its Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy.
Tillery said he doesn’t know how the president can bridge those differences, though Biden might be in a better position to focus on police reform that Democrats tried to negotiate with Republicans, only to be unable to reach a consensus that could clean up a Republican filibuster. .
“Maybe they have mitigated some Republican attacks, but they have also softened support for the people who voted for them in the 2020 election,” Tillery said. “I don’t know how they resolve that, except to say that they need to be more forceful in saying that the things they wanted to accomplish were blocked in the Senate.”
Tillery added that the overall challenge could be that people see inflation as a domestic phenomenon, rather than a global one. Republicans blame high prices on Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief from 2021, while recent months have also shown inflation to be a global trend driven in part by the aftermath of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, causing energy and food prices to rise.
“The reality is that, like all presidents, he is a victim of things beyond his control,” Tillery said. “Inflation is a global problem. It’s much worse in other parts of the world, but he can’t send messages that way.”
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